PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2014, Vol. 33 ›› Issue (7): 874-883.doi: 10.11820/dlkxjz.2014.07.002

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Climate change science and sustainable development

Dahe QIN1,2()   

  1. 1. State Key Laboratory of Cryosphere Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, China
    2. China Meteorological Administration, Beijing 100081, China
  • Online:2014-07-25 Published:2014-07-25


Since the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) was released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007, new observations have further proved that the warming of the global climate system is unequivocal. Each of the last three successive decades before 2012 has been successively warmer at global mean surface temperature than any preceding decade since 1850. 1983-2012 was likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1400 years. From 1998 to 2012, the rate of warming of the global land surface slowed down, but it did not reflect the long-term trends in climate change. The ocean has warmed, and the upper 75 m of the ocean warmed by more than 0.11℃ per decade since 1970. Over the period of 1971 to 2010, 93% of the net energy increase in the Earth's climate system was stored in the oceans. The rate of global mean sea level rise has accelerated, which was up to 3.2 mm yr-1 between 1993 and 2010. Anthropogenic global ocean carbon stocks were likely to have increased and caused acidification of the ocean surface water. Since 1971, the glaciers and the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been losing mass. Since 1979, the Arctic sea ice extent deceased at 3.5% to 4.1% per decade, and the Antarctic sea ice extent in the same period increased by 1.2% to 1.8% per decade. The extent of the Northern Hemisphere snow cover has decreased. Since the early 1980s, the permafrost temperatures have increased in most regions. Human influence has been detected in the warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, changes in the water cycle, reductions in snow and ice, global mean sea level rise, and changes in climate extremes. The largest contribution to the increase in the anthropogenic radiative forcing was by the increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 since 1750. It led to more than half of global warming since the 1950s (with 95 % confidence). It is predicted using Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) and Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) that the global mean surface temperature will continue to rise for the end of this century, the frequency of extreme events such as heat waves and heavy precipitation will increase, and precipitation will present a trend of "the dry becomes drier, the wet becomes wetter". The temperature of the upper ocean will increase by 0.6 to 2.0℃ compared to the period of 1986 to 2005, heat will penetrate from the surface to the deep ocean which will affect ocean circulation, and sea level will rise by 0.26 to 0.82 m in 2100. Cryosphere will continue to warm. To control global warming, humans need to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions. If the increase in temperature is higher than 2℃ than before industrialization, the mean annual economic losses worldwide will reach 0.2% to 2.0% of income, and cause large-scale irreversible effects, including death, disease, food insecurity, inland flooding and water logging, and rural drinking water and irrigation difficulties that affect human security. If taking prompt actions, however, it is still possible to limit the increase in temperature within 2℃. To curb the gradually out-of-control global warming and achieve the goal of sustainable development of the human society, global efforts to reduce emissions are needed.

Key words: climate change, global warming, impact, adaptation, vulnerability, mitigation, sustainable development

CLC Number: 

  • P467